MOVILLE, Iowa | About the time No Child Left Behind spreads its wings in education (or, doesn't) Paul Gallagher reaches out, a first-grader when the landmark legislation becomes law in 2002.
Paul, the second of our five children, graduates Sunday from Woodbury Central High School in Moville.
He's been inclusive from the start. It's where I find myself reflecting as he (@PGeezy11 on Twitter, if you're inclined) dons cap and gown for the pomp, the circumstance, the tributes and tears.
For years folks here told this class about its academic greatness. The plaudits? Justified. As a class, WC's 2013 grads score in the 99th percentile when compared to other Iowa classes on the Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED) in second grade, third grade and 10th grade.
Paul earns one "B" in high school. He ranks 12 out of 47 students, with a 3.907 GPA. Now, that's a competitive class!
Sports and fun drive Paul; not books. Two years ago he comes home teary-eyed after a dramatic basketball substate loss to Boyden-Hull. His heart sinks not for losing, but for five seniors who made the team experience unforgettable. He doubts his teams can ever match that unity.
I challenge him to make future teams that are meaningful for everyone.
To an extent, he succeeds, and has a scrapbook to show for it. Cross country teams laugh while running. Basketball, baseball and golf squads bond, work and win their fair share of games and league titles.
Musical highlights and show choir gaffes, all in fun, become part of his high school glory, as do impersonations, improvisations and character exaggeration. (He has my mannerisms down, pat. I laugh, for the most part.)
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His journey isn't limited to formal school activities. Paul makes team play memorable long before a substate basketball run. He transforms our backyard into a mini-Wrigley Field and casts a wide net around classmates. He shapes rosters, rakes Agri-Lime and begs us to buy "stadium" lights. Jill and I cave, gladly.
He compiles a food list for wiffle ball buddies. Their parents cave, too.
Wiffle ball gives way to "Luther Dome," a flag football fantasy land of sorts for boys in Moville. The name comes from the location, a tract of grass west of Trinity Lutheran Church.
Paul leaves few (or nobody, if they wish) behind every year in running his school's largest NCAA Final Four pool. Steve Shanks, the former school principal, wonders what's amiss when Paul -- and young brother Anthony -- miss school for sore throats as March Madness tips.
When Paul's fantasy football draft outgrows our basement, he creates a second league and hooks laptop to our TV to display drafting order and player highlights, complete with Twitter feed and sarcasm.
Seems everyone has a role each homecoming week when Woodbury Central's powderpuff football teams take the field. For three years Paul coaches one of the two girls teams, an oddity for a diminutive kid who never plays a down in high school.
Powderpuff memories lead me to his desk on the eve of graduation. A three-ring binder with "Raul" (Paul's high school Spanish name) on the front would, for most students, contain Spanish assignments, exams and quizzes.
It doesn't. This binder features 21 pages of color-coded diagrams, blocking schemes and a list of 65 plays, his road map in leading classes of girls through the basics of football for a rite of fall -- a pastime for Paul -- that leaves no child behind.